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A Membership Milestone

One school’s decision marks end of an era for Division III

The Prairie Wolves football, soccer and outdoor track and field teams compete inside Abel Stadium. NEBRASKA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY PHOTO

Nebraska Wesleyan University will soon forgo its dual membership in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and NCAA to align itself exclusively with NCAA Division III. A mundane transition? Hardly. Before announcing the change in July, the school was the last to hold membership in both, and its jump to the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference will mark the end of a practice that was once commonplace.

In the early 1980s, more than 100 schools carried dual affiliation. By 2000, though, that number had been cut nearly in half. Though no rule prevents dual membership, the exodus to the NCAA was driven, in part, by changes in championships selection criteria: NCAA selection committees have increasingly focused on performance against conference and regional opponents, so contests against schools from the NAIA hold less sway over the committees’ decisions. 

Nebraska Wesleyan will now have a defined path to NCAA national championship events, which comes at the expense of competing frequently against local foes, including the five other members of the NAIA’s Great Plains Athletic Conference in and around the school’s home in Lincoln, Nebraska. 

“We will certainly miss competing against our historic rivals,” said Fred Ohles, university president. “But now Nebraska Wesleyan University can fully live out our commitment to the Division III philosophy. That has a very high value to us.”

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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